How Global Fabric could sew the future of networks

15 Dec 2023

Steve Coakley. Image: Iain White/Fennell Photography

BT Ireland’s Steve Coakley talks us through the company’s new network-as-a-service model and the benefits it could have in terms of flexibility, security and sustainability.

Over the past few years, network infrastructure across the world has seen a number challenges, most notably the high levels of data traffic generated in the modern world. In October, multiple telecoms companies called on EU lawmakers to make Big Tech pay for the expansion of network infrastructure across the continent due to their role as the biggest drivers of internet traffic.

According to these companies, data traffic has increased over the last decade at a rate of 20 to 30pc per year, which they claim is driven by a handful of these Big Tech companies.

As data traffic continues to soar so do efforts to cope with the strain this puts on global network infrastructure.

From services such as Starlink and Project Kuiper hoping to improve connectivity from the stars, to government initiatives such as the National Broadband Plan, the focus on enhanced network capabilities has never been stronger.

Recently, BT revealed its new network called Global Fabric, which the company says bring a lot of benefits including operational flexibility and increased sustainability. To find out more, we visited the company’s site in Ireland, where we spoke to Steve Coakley, head of network propositions at BT Ireland.


So what is Global Fabric? Coakley describes it as an international network designed “from the ground up to be secure” and provide multicloud connectivity to organisations around the world.

“It’s built with the software-as-a-service and hyperscaler model, of flexibility and ability to consume as you need and pay as you go,” he says.

“But it’s a full global build of points of presence – 160 of them around the world. So it really shifts where the traffic is consumed by our customers closer to the cloud service providers.”

Coakley says there are four key features to Global Fabric: cost, operational flexibility, security and data sovereignty, and sustainability.

In terms of cost, he says that the service helps its customers “with their cloud egress costs by connecting multiclouds better”, while the operational flexibility gives customers the ability to “turn up and turn down services as they need them and when they need them”.

In relation to security and data sovereignty, Coakley says that the network is designed to avoid “undesired geographies” when routing data and internet traffic, even in times of failover (when a system automatically transfers control to a backup system when it detects a fault or failure).

From a sustainability perspective, Coakley claims that Global Fabric is 79pc more energy efficient than BT Ireland’s current network, while also using 100pc renewable energy to power it.

Global Fabric in use

To give an example of ways that this new network can be used by organisations, Coakley points to supply chain benefits, such as giving organisations supply chain visibility.

“An organisation might say, from a visibility perspective, I want to know how my suppliers are working, whether there’s issues with strikes or traffic. So, supply chain and data insights are really key.

“With Global Fabric, we connect all of those partnerships into that ecosystem and allow that data insight visibility be made real for that customer.”

In terms of the biggest trends in networks and connectivity, Coakley considers two things to be a cut above the rest.

The first is AI and machine learning, which Coakley says can provide quicker identification of issues before they manage to affect the user experience.

The second, according to Coakley, is experience-level agreements (XLAs), which he says surpasses service-level agreements in the way that the former allows increased attention to user experience compared to the latter.

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Colin Ryan is a copywriter/copyeditor at Silicon Republic